How an honourable man was belittled


During Chandrika’s time there still were a few honourable men amongst us. Honourable men did not mean being financially beyond reproach, but it also meant ethical and fair minded men, who would not be influenced by extraneous people, who wielded power and decided on your future when you are a government servant.

When a person who is clean and lily white in financial matters re arranges his commitments at the behest of his political masters, he would certainly earn the wrath of others. Chandrika and the politicians who followed her resisted these individuals. She began, through various processes, to mow them down, so that she would have a well manicured lawn to play her games. Others were mowed down and even the stumps were uprooted.

Upawansa Yapa, President’s Counsel and Solicitor General, was one of the officials she was not well disposed towards. So she appointed a commission chaired by her cousin Tissa Dias Bandaranaike to tarnish the image of this man. The Crime he committed was, representing the state before an international commission and presenting evidence on which reputed jurists from around the world, concluded that General Kobbekaduwa died as a result of the jeep he was traveling in crossing the path of a land mine and that no bomb was hidden inside the jeep as proposed by the Opposition and Gamini Dissanayake.

One day the whole country woke up with the breaking of news that Upawansa Yapa, the Solicitor General’s passport had been impounded. Thereafter Mr. Yapa was had been called to give evidence. The manner in which he gave evidence and answered the questions asked by Bandaranaike demonstrated that he was one of the great men we have had in the legal profession. He came out of the witness box triumphant and this was one instance when the truth prevailed over falsehood.

Commissioner Bandaranaike : You were nominated by the Attorney General to assist the International Commission?

Mr. Yapa : Yes

Q: The Attorney General was Mr. Tilak Marapana?

A : Yes

Q: A foreign lawyer, if he is to appear in our Courts, has first to be attached to our Bar?

A : Yes, there is a rule to that effect.

Q: How was it possible to have an international commission appointed? Could they have come to Sri Lanka to sit in a Commission?

A: The appointment was made by the President and I had no hand in it.

Q: Were you not consulted?

A: No.

Q : Was the Attorney-General consulted?

A : I think he was.

Q : Read Section 2 of the Commission of Inquiry Act. Now in terms of these provisions, could the International Commission have conducted proceedings?

A : I must say with great interest that I am not competent and I am not prepared to interpret the Law here, when I am in the Witness Box. The interpretation of the statute is not for me.

Q : Did you look into those notes?

A : No. That is not my function. I was appointed to assist the Commission. The Commission wanted me to lead evidence of witnesses, who were called by the Commission. The Commission questioned witnesses to have matters clarified.

Q : One Serasinghe is supposed to have collected some pieces from the crater and then subsequently, handed them to the International Committee.

A : Yes, I can remember some witnesses saying so.

Q: The pieces are supposed to have been given to the Government Analyst.

A : May be.

Q : There is a discrepancy about the date when these were handed over. The dates given by Mr. Ismail do not appear to be correct.

A: That you will have to ask from Justice Ismail. I cannot answer that question.

Q : What is this dress you are wearing. As Solicitor General, should you not wear the black coat?

A : Is there a problem about my dress? I am dressed appropriately to give evidence (Mr. Yapa gave evidence wearing a safari suit).

Q : What is that you are wearing? It is like a banian.

A : (Mr. Yapa) It is not so. This is an extra special dress. I was asked about wearing the black coat. The black coat belongs to a noble profession. If I were to wear the black coat, I will be there (pointing at the Bar Table), not here. I do not wish to be disrespectful to my profession. I stress that I am dressed to suit the occasion.

Q : That is the reason. Did you take any negatives from a witness?

A : no, I did not.

Q : The International Commission went to London to examine witnesses.

A : Yes.

Q : Who and who went to London? How many lawyers?

A : Myself, Mr. A C Perera, who was my junior, Mr. J. B. L. de Silva, Mr. Sarath Liyanage and Mr. Kalinga Indratissa.

Q : There was a witness from the Land Rover Company who gave evidence.

A : Yes, in addition to the expert who was summoned at the request of Mr. Abeysuriya.

Q : That witness had spoken of a particular kind of vehicle and the Government Analyst had spoken of some other vehicle.

A: I am not able to give an answer.

Q : In the Attorney-General's Department, when notes of an investigation are submitted by the police Department, do you not examine them and give instructions to the Police to record further statements and also, send productions for examination, give instructions - like that?

A :Yes we do.

Q: Then why didn't you do so at the Commission?

A : I must explain a little here. A Commission of Inquiry is a fact finding Commission. There is no prosecution there. I was not appearing for the Prosecution as if in a trial before a jury, or by a judge. In fact, I was informed of my task by the Commissioners. Through habit, I once called myself the lawyer for the Prosecution, and the Commissioners were quick to remind me that I was the lawyer for the Commission, and that I was assisting them under their direction. [There were other lawyers too who were representing interested parties].

Q : Everything has been done so quickly. Could they have attended to all this, during this short time?

A: I cannot comment on that. I know that they did what they were asked to do and submitted a report. They were experienced judges. I have no reason to be disrespectful to them even by word.

Mr. Liyanage, the Lawyer representing the family of General Wimalaratne: Mr. Wyatt who gave evidence in London; did he not admit that he had come to a wrong conclusion from photographs?

Mr. Yapa : Yes, in fact, he said that it was dangerous to come into a conclusion from photographs.

Q : Did he not admit that Mr. Gunatilake, the Senior Assistant Government Analyst was more qualified than him?

A : Yes. In fact he ultimately said that, had he the material that Mr. Gunatilake discovered in his examination, he too would have come to the conclusion that the explosion was the result of a landmine. I must say this. There was an attempt made to undervalue the report prepared by Mr. Gunatilake, who had taken a lot of trouble and had done a thorough scientific examination. I resisted the attempt made to criticize the expertise of Mr. Gunatilake.

Mr. Yapa: With your permission, may I have a clarification on one matter?

Commissioner Bandaranaike :Yes.

Mr. Yapa : In March last year, on orders of the Commission, my passport was impounded. It was returned to me about two weeks thereafter. Up to date I do not know why this was done. Even the most inferior court, when it makes an order, it gives its reasons. I should like to know why.

Commissioner Bandaranaike : The President of the Bar Association made an application for the return of the passport. That is why it was released.

Mr. Yapa : With great respect, the reasons are not clear to me still. I would like to know the reasons for impounding my passport. I was virtually branded a criminal. It was all over the newspapers.

Commissioner Bandaranaike : That is what you did. You gave it publicity.

Mr. Yapa : I did not. I was asked by the press whether my passport had been impounded and I said, "yes". That is about all. With great respect, what I am interested in is to find out the reasons.

Commissioner Bandaranaike : Many wrong things had been done. many people started talking about it.

Mr. Yapa : I wish to inform you that I will be taking steps in this regard in the future.

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